After Grace left us we decided that we were going to make our way back to the U.S. To take care of some boat items needing attention. We also had to get a survey to satisfy our insurance carrier. We left Belize city for San Pedro where we would check out of the country. It's a full day trip so we left first thing in the morning. We had very good wind the entire way but had a serious hair raising mishap mid way.
We were basically back tracking over our prior route so we could just follow the redline on our chart plotter. We exited Porto Stuck, a small channel between two islands, and decided since the charts all show good water, meaning 7-9 feet, we would cut off a section and make our trip a wee bit shorter. Jess was below taking a nap when he hit our first sand bar sailing along at 6 knots. The depth went from 8 to 5.5 in a nano second. It's a soft hit as its sand and grass but nonetheless shook the whole rig. Then another hit, and another, and another. By this time Jess is in the cockpit and I'm heading back to deeper water but was committed to a direction and only hoping for deeper water. I wanted speed and the boat to heel hard so it's depths was reduced. I started the engine and added some RPM's and turned hard on the wind. Bam, bam, bam multiple hits with the mast and rigging shaking. We were both scared as $€!*+ thinking we would be forever stuck on this bar, that wasn't charted of course. We must have hit 15 times before we finally found 7 feet of water. We are both so done with shallow water sailing. No thanks, no more.
We arrived San Pedro that afternoon a little shook up. We quickly launched the dink so we could get into town and check out with the authorities for departure. You have to go back to customs and immigration to get a zarpe which is the paperwork we will need for our next entry into another country. Of course it's another $200 to leave this place. Belize has all sorts of fees they put on cruisers. We had to pay several hundred dollars on arriving, then again after 30 days to renew our paperwork, and again on departure. They are total rip off artists. The officials all add on a little to put into their pockets as well. We then made our rounds around town provisioning. We were trying to spend every last Belize nickel before heading out. We had been in Belize at this point for more than 2 months and were so ready to leave. We spent way to much time in this place. We were both feeling anxious for getting back to Florida and getting the work done so we could prepare for the Atlantic crossing. The weather was our only obstacle. In order to go back north you have to sail North and East. And a lot of East which is the predominate direction of the wind. Not to mention we would be in the Yucatan current then transition into the gulf stream.
There is a lot of things to contend with. We were using a new weather router, Chris Parker, to help us with the planning. Chris recommended we stop in Isla Majures, Mexico en route to the U.S. and wait for better wind direction. We really wanted some bit of South in the wind so there wasn't wind against current creating steep seas and also so were were not beating into the wind the whole way.
We left San Pedro the following morning at sunrise on about 220 mile passage. We exited the reef in 20 knots of wind with a significant sea state under power. That was pretty exciting. There were large waves rolling in the entrance making forward progress difficult and slow. We wanted some sea room away from the reef before we would turn north and put out the sails. It's always exciting to say the least. Once far enough offshore we turned north and were close hauled making 7 knots. We started to pick up significant current in the Yucatan current off Chinchurrow banks of Mexico. The sea state was big and confused and were sailing in a washing machine but flying along. We were averaging 9 knots and often hitting over 10.
We were turning northwest at first light headed to Isla Majures and had the anchor down by 11am. We made 220 miles in 27 hours. What a fast trip. We arrived on Good Friday and decided not to check in with the authorities as they would charge overtime fees since it was a holiday weekend. So we were illegal aliens until Monday when the holiday was over and the officials would be back at work on a normal schedule. Once we arrived we overheard some friends on the radio that they too were bound for Isla Majures. Melinda and Harry on SeaShell arrived a few hours after us. They are the social butterfly's of the yachties in every anchorage so we quickly hooked up with them and met several other couples.
We took our dinghy into the town dock and both quickly realized how different everything was from Belize. You could feel the culture immediately. Belize felt like a country lost compared to Mexico. Belize was an English colony that is suffering from an identity crisis. They don't know if they are English or Latino. The Menanites have taken over the farming, the Chinese own the super markets, and the Americans and Canadiens have taken over the real estate market and tourist business. It's quite sad actually. Mexico has a strong proud culture and identity compared to Belize and this was felt immediately when we went ashore. Isla Majures seemed to be the vacation playground for Mexicans. Not like Cancun or Mayan Riviera that's all gringos. Gringos were the minority here, at least for this holy holiday weekend of Easter.
The anchorage had about 20 boats in it with a few small marinas as well. There were 5-10 boats also waiting for favorable winds to make for Florida. We met a whole bunch of cruisers at one of the bi weekly social events, Taco Tuesday. So far on this trip most of the cruisers have all been older so we were anxious to meet some younger folks. We meet Beena and Spencer on s/v Cambio who were from Alaska. They were in their late 20's, the youngest cruisers we have met thus far. They bought their beautiful steel sail boat in Guatemala for 12k and spent last summer there fixing her up. Before this they were "over landers". They had retrofitted an old land cruiser and were headed through central and South America. They decided early on this wasn't for them and drove the truck back to Alaska and came back to Central America and bought their new mode of transport, the sailboat. I admire the courage they both have at such a young age. They are headed up the east coast bound for Newfoundland.
We ended up in Isla Majures for about 5 days as the winds were persistent from the east. We both really enjoyed the island. The prices were much better than Belize, the food was 10x better, better beer, great culture, not as hot as Belize. We both wished we had made our way to Mexico in the beginning or the end of the trip, oh well, lesson learned.
We left Thursday morning the 9th bound for Port Everglades. There were about 5 other boats leaving around the same time so we decided to have a little "US bound net" where would all get on the SSB at 7am and 7pm and check in, compare position, and just all keep an eye on each other. A nice little safety net I guess. One of the things we have learned about many cruisers is the fear of long passages. Many of these long time live boards have made there way great distances with rarely sailing over night. They gunk hole their way along the coast. One of the boats had made their way from Alaska without ever making more than a 150 mile passage. The other thing we have found out is what a crowd mentality does. One boat starts to talk about the "possibility" of bad weather and everyone starts to get nervous and scared and stays put. Spencer on Cambio called these anchorages "Chicken Harbor". People will sit out weeks upon weeks waiting for "perfect" weather. They all psych each other into waiting and sometimes never leave.
The first 15 hours we were making great time and stayed on the rhumb line the whole way. Then we got into a north west current that was pulling us way west of our target waypoint. We should have motor sailed closer to the wind but instead sailed the closest point we could and ended up 30 miles or so west of where we wanted to be. The winds we wanted, south east, never showed up. It was east if not a wee bit ENE. We had to motor head into the wind as we needed as much east-ing along Cuba's north coast as possible. We knew we were going to motor for more than 24 hours and beat into the wind and waves so we just decided to take our medicine and get it over with. We finally gave up on Port Everglades as our arrival port and decided to head for Marathon Key. Still the wind and current of the Gulf Stream made for a difficult trip and we had to claw our way into wind the whole way. We arrived Marathon at sunrise, took on fuel and then set back out to make half the distance to Port Everglades. We sailed the Hawk Channel which is NNE direction with 15-20 knots of a southeast breeze in calm waters. This is the way to sail. How quickly the memory of the last 4 days faded away when we on this part of the trip. We anchored up behind Rodriguez Key at sunset and awoke at sunrise the next morning to finish the trip. We again had a great sail all the way to Miami and then needed to motor sail the last portion to Port Everglades.
We have a busy several weeks in front of us. We have made a chore list that is very ambitious for out time here. It's going to be a work filled marina holiday. The list is long: first clean entire boat inside and out, we have been overtaken by salt. Next, complete rigging check, clean all bilge and ensure all pumps function properly, repair mainsail leech line, fix grounding of SSB radio, install 2 more rail mounted solar panels, diagnose and repair generator, replace some lifelines, do a capacity test on house, engine, and bow thruster batteries, get EPIRB batteries replaced, replace furling line, replace clutches for main sheet, replace force 10 stove, diagnose KVH issues, fix forward dorade, pull out back up anchor chain and inspect keel bolts, and about ten other things that don't come to mind. This lifestyle is a lot of work.